Ik hoorde zopas nog eens de fantastische versie van “With a little help from my friends” door Joe Cocker en The Grease Band. Ik dacht: wie zou toch die fantastische orgelist zijn? Wel, dat blijkt Tommy Eyre te zijn, die vandaag precies twintig jaar geleden al is overleden aan keelkanker.
Tommy Eyre was born in Sheffield (just like Joe Cocker) and began piano lessons at the age of four. He started playing guitar when he was in his teens. In 1968 he joined Joe Cocker‘s Grease Band where he played the organ on With A Little Help From My Friends. In the same year Eyre moved to London to work with The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation and later with Dunbar’s next rock band called Blue Whale. After a short period with the band Juicy Lucy, Eyre joined the duo Mark-Almond and played on two of their albums. After that, in 1972, Eyre and bassist Roger Sutton resumed their own project Strabismus which they had started in 1969, and which was now called Riff Raff. With Riff Raff Eyre recorded three albums, one of them not being released until 2001.
Together with singer Alan Marshall from Riff Raff, Eyre joined the band Zzebra in 1974 for their first album, replacing keyboardist and singer Gus Yeadon. Eyre played on some of the tracks but is not credited on the album. With Zzebra he recorded a second album in 1975. In August 1977, Eyre became a member of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, with whom he stayed until 1979. After that, Eyre recorded an album with John Martyn and did a promotion tour with him in 1980. In June 1981, he joined Greg Lake for his solo project, and in 1982 became a member of Gary Moore’s studio and touring band.
One of Eyre’s longest and most successful associations was with the duo Wham!, for whom he became musical director. His works with Wham! include the successful album Make it Big in 1984 with the singles “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go“, “Freedom“, “Everything She Wants“, and George Michael’s solo record Careless Whisper. A massive world tour included China in April 1985, which generated a great deal of media coverage as it was the first visit to China by a Western popular music act.
Eyre, who had done studio work for many artists before, started working predominantly as a session musician from the late 1980s. His studio work included recordings with Ian Gillan, BBM (Bruce, Baker, Moore), and several other recordings with Gary Moore in 1982 and throughout the nineties. Another act for whom Eyre has contributed session work was Gerry Rafferty. His 1978 album City to City included Rafferty’s hit “Baker Street” on which Eyre played synthesizer and keyboards. The track “Whatever’s Written in Your Heart” was recorded with Eyre playing piano and Rafferty singing beside him.
During the 1990s, Eyre recorded several albums with his wife the American violinist Scarlet Rivera, many of them influenced by traditional Irish or Scottish music. Later in the nineties he also produced some solo albums with instrumental piano music. Tommy played keyboard on the Alex Harvey recording of The Poet and I Written by Frank Mills and Ray Conn.
Eyre lived most of his life in England up until the mid-1980s with his first wife Lorraine Eyre. They divorced in 1988 but remained close until his death. From the late 1980s he lived in the US with his American wife, the violinist Scarlet Rivera. He died of esophageal cancer in Los Angeles on 23 May 2001, aged 51.